Saturday, August 21, 2004

Week 8 - Punta Gorda, Belize to Huehuetenango, Guatemala

August 14-20, 2004

Punta Gorda, Toledo to Huehuetenango, Huehuetenango

Saturday, Sunday, and Monday - FLORES, GUATEMALA

Left Belize by boat to enter Guatemala.

Belize will be missed - wonderful wonderful country. Spent our last few Belizean dollars on food and exit fee. Enjoyed an awesome one hour boat rode on the Atlantic Ocean. The view was amazing - clear blue waters with views of mountains in both Belize and Guatemala, and a view of one of Belize’s many Cayes - pronounced ¨keys¨.

We arrived to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala - population 37,800.

The border crossing was the smoothest yet - very straight forward and simple. The immigration office was two blocks from the dock. We were given 90 days to stay in Guatemala - unlike Belize and Mexico which granted us 30.

Spent a bit of time in the central market. Very fun and exciting introduction to Guatemala - very colorful and busy... cars, trains, buses, bikes, and many people. A pleasant chaos.

Took a minibus to Morales where the same ¨crazy - color - busy¨ was going on, and continued on to Rio Dulce. At one point in the ride, there were 24 people all crammed into the vehicle which normally sits 16 people - including the driver. At times, the door was open with people hanging out. It was TIGHT as everyone’s bags were in the vehicle - along with the eight extra people. It was also very hot and humid.

Spent a short amount of time in Rio Dulce before we departed by bus to Santa Elena. This old Greyhound - type bus had its emergency windows propped open for air because of the weather.

Arrived to Santa Elena and walked to the island town of Flores - population 5,000. This town is very relaxing, quiet, and is totally devoted to tourists mostly because of Parque Nacional Tikal (National Park of Tikal). It is possible to walk around the entire island which lies in Lake Peten Itza in about 30 minutes.

Many people use boats for daily transportation...

Stayed in a restaurant that had four small rooms for boarding and two free (not in a cage)toucan birds.

Spent a full and amazing day in Tikal. This huge Maya city is set right in the jungle. The entire park is 222 km sq. and is filled with the ruins and many walking trails. Saw incredible wild life including... spider monkeys, keel-billed toucans, coatimundis (pizotes), and ocellated turkeys. The sounds of animals that went unseen(howler monkeys, birds, insects) were just as amazing.

Osellated Turkey...


Coatimundis (Pizotes), ...

Ants carrying pieces of leaves 10 times larger than they...

Also saw howler monkeys but have no photos...they are fun and amazing!

No words can describe the feeling of standing at the foot of the great
structures that were constructed beginning in 300 BC.

Here is an amazing photo...these men had just uncovered a human skeleton...very interesting and amazing when you think about how old it must be!

Here is what the area looks like before it is excavated thus allowing the ruins to be seen...

Tuesday and Wednesday - COBAN, GUATEMALA

Three very scenic minibus rides to Coban - population 70,000... very green and mostly dirt roads...and a rainbow to top the beauty off.

Had to cross the Rio de la Pasion in Sayaxche. There is no bridge so all people and traffic cross by boat and ferry.

This ferry was carrying a truck...

This is an example of boats used for people to cross the river...

Large river boats are used to transport goods to local villages...

Coban sits on a long thin plateau and has extremely steep roads leading to the plaza. Year round, the city receives regular soft rain known as chipi-chipi which is great for the coffee and cardamom which are found in abundance in the area.

In Coban, we enjoyed harp music in this very very small bar that had two tables total.

Also watched Guatemala beat Canada in soccer... extra fun with the local team as victor!


Amazing, amazing bus ride from Coban to Uspantan... many coffee plants, all narrow dirt roads winding up and down beautiful mountains and passing through quaint villages. Very nice!

Met Claudia from Germany and we all splurged (which is rare due to a tight budget)... had a super meal at Comedor San Miguel. The food was so good that we all had two plates - eggs, beans, tortillas, cucumbers, tomatoes, and avocados).

While walking around the small nice town, we heard some great music...curiosity led us to a hall with dancing... and so we danced. Awesome!

Went for a morning walk up and down a steep pretty hillside.

Hitch hiked to Sacapulas. Lucky to catch two rides... both were in the back of local pick-up trucks. More narrow winding dirt roads up and down mountains. Again, extremely, extremely beautiful. Fun to be riding in the open. The second ride was really dusty because we were behind a truck most of the way. Our hair, face, and clothes were white with dust - as if we had been dry walling all day. Well worth it!

Had lunch in Sacapulas across from the hot springs on the margin of the Rio Negro, that many use for bathing, clothes washing, and enjoyment. Sacapulas lies at the foot of the Cuchumatanes Mountains. Met and talked with a Guatemalan and his son while waiting for a bus to Huehuetenango. Very nice people here too.

Spent one quick night in Huehuetenango (known locally as Hue-Hue, pronounced, "way way") in route to Quetzaltenango. Cannot say much about the town because the bus station was on the outskirts and is where we stayed. In this particular area, it was very busy with trucks and much diesel fumes.

Leaving tomorrow for Quetzaltenango.

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